October 25, 2014
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Theatre Review
Haunting 'The Mourner's Bench' at Trinity
Don Fowler
Photo by Mark Turek
Trinity Rep resident company members Angela Brazil (Melissa) and Mauro Hantman (Bobby) in “The Mourners’ Bench,” a world premiere by George Brant, directed by Michael Perlman. Now playing at Trinity Repertory Company as part of the Three by Three in Rep. Sets by Michael McGarty, costumes by William Lane, lighting by Dan Scully.

Seldom does a new play come along that challenges the audience in such a positive, thoughtful way as George Brant’s “The Mourner’s Bench.”

The dark, emotional, personal mood begins with a piano piece and is carried out in three scenes with three pairs of actors in the same room at different times. The real challenge for a reviewer of this haunting play is revealing anything about the plot or the relationships of the characters without spoiling the impact.

We first meet Melissa (Angela Brazil) and Bobby (Mauro Hantman) as they come together in a house, where a piano is at the center of the living room…and the play. Who they are and how they are connected is slowly – and cleverly – revealed, along with a traumatic past experience that changed their lives.

In scene 2 of the 90-minute, one-act play we meet Wilma (Janice Duclos) and Caroline (Phyllis Kay). They have come together at the same house at a different time, faced with a difficult decision that is connected to the characters in the opening scene. In scene 3 we meet Sarah (Anne Scurria) and Joe (Timothy Crowe), who are also two people living in the house at a different time. Brandt brilliantly and subtlety introduces us to the six characters, revealing their pasts, their connections, their personalities and their anxieties. It takes you a while to figure out who is who and what is what, and when you do you are pulled into their lives and their characters in a most revealing way.

As you can see, I have told you nothing about the plot, trusting you to see this incredible play and be as moved as I was, not only by its unique approach to plot and character development but also by the terrific performances of all six veteran Trinity actors.

“The Mourners’ Bench” is one of three plays currently being performed in repertory, with most of the actors appearing twice in different roles, a challenge for any actor. This is a play that is somber and moody, but with an uplifting ending that ties everything together and sends you home thinking about what you have been a part of.

The question of “What if?” will be raised more than once. You will also think about the effect that a traumatic experience can have on a person’s life and mental stability.

So trust me on this one. Don’t look for a plot synopsis before going. Let the play unfold before you and be surprised and challenged as I was.

Tickets are $26 to $66. Call 351-4242 for reservations. The play runs in repertory with “Sparrow Grass” and “Love Alone” through the end of May.


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